During the fall of 2017, Hillary Rodham Clinton was interviewed on my favorite podcast, Call Your Girlfriend. She was featured on a bunch of podcasts right around that time; it was soon after her book, What Happened, was released. It was bittersweet, listening to these interviews; HRC may be a complicated and flawed individual (aren’t we all?), but there’s no doubt in my mind that she would be a more competent leader than our current president.
However – that’s not why I’m mentioning HRC today. The real reason she’s on my mind is that, in that September 2017 interview on CYG, she became one of my Reliable Book Recommenders.
I’ve blogged about this previously, but to restate: not everyone in your life is a Reliable Book Recommender. I have amazing friends – best friends – who are readers, and have a lot in common with me, and yet are UNRELIABLE Book Recommenders. Our taste in books just does not match up.
During the CYG interview, HRC mentioned being a fan of the Elena Ferrante novels, which I loooooved. Moments later, she mentioned a different writer, someone I’d never heard of before: Louise Penny, a Canadian author who (according to HRC) had famously authored the Chief Inspector Gamache murder mystery series.
Now, since HRC had endorsed the Ferrante novels, I knew we had at least some overlap in our reading tastes. And I adore mystery novels – well-written ones, that is. So I requested Louise Penny’s first novel, Still Life, from the Baltimore County Public Library.
It’s five months later, and I recently finished the 13th book in the series. OH MY GOSH I LOVE THESE BOOKS SO MUCH. Each book contains a murder mystery, but there’s a group of characters – Chief Inspector Gamache and his family, his second-in-command Jean Guy Beauvoir; and a small circle of friends who live in a quaint village in the Quebec countryside called Three Pines – that are present throughout the series. The murder mystery is usually interesting and compelling, but I find that I’m more intrigued by the staple characters than I am by the mystery Gamache is solving. Each character has a compelling back story, personality, and personal journey, and I really love spending time in Three Pines. When I finished Book 13, I was worried that it might be the last in the series; luckily, I started following Louise Penny on Facebook, and learned that Book 14 should be released sometime during 2018!
One of the reasons I have Louise Penny’s books on my mind is that I learned a little about her story. She started writing full-time in her late thirties, and her first novel was published in her forties. I find this an inspiring, not depressing, timeline. And, as I’m thinking more and more about working on a longer piece of fiction writing, I am very much in need of inspiring timelines!
As I sped through the Louise Penny books, I realized that if I want to write what I myself love, then I should write a series of mystery novels. I actually realized this as I was contemplating how sad I’d be if Book 13 were the last book in the series; I had the thought that if I really wanted another mystery series PRONTO, then I should write it myself. I’ve been giving it a try, but the idea of writing a good mystery is really intimidating! I mean, how do you come up with something that’s so clever that you can confound and perplex your readers? How do you DO that?! It seems even more egotistical than regular fiction writing. (My Inner Critic voice often says snarky things to me like, “Who the hell would want to read anything YOU wrote?”)
One of the things I am most excited about is that idea of creating a cast of characters that I can revisit again and again throughout a series. It means I don’t have to resolve everything in one book. I think that will also help with my instinct to tie everything up with a bow at the end of a story or novel; if I know I’m writing a series, it can be more of a slow burn.
SO EXCITED. SO INSPIRED. SO ENCOURAGED.